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New Site!

Posted by Becks
on 11.18.06

If you're seeing this, you're on the new site. Faster! Stronger! Better! We hope, at least.

Please note any weirdness in the comments of this post. Thanks.

[Added by Ogged]: All that testing that we did, that was on a different new server. We couldn't get that to keep up with the pace of comments here, so we ditched it. Now we're on one of these.

You'll note that although there was a slight preference for including the text of the post in the comment box, we haven't done it. A close vote and our natural conservatism added up to CHANGEBAD.

Finally, a couple of slightly geeky points, for those who are interested. The main changes we made to speed up the site were to remove any dynamic comment content (comment counts, recent comments sidebar) from the archive pages, so that they wouldn't need to be rebuilt with each comment submission, and, more importantly, we're no longer using the old-style cgi pop-up comment window, we're just faking it. What pops up now is an individual entry archive page, like, for example, this page. We just stripped everything but the comments. The reason is that the default MT pop-up window used a cgi script to populate the comments dynamically, which meant that not only comment submissions, but also page refreshes were querying the database. When things get busy, that just kills the database. The new page, however, only accesses the database when a comment is submitted; a refresh simply returns the most recently rebuilt static page. We'll find out if any of this makes a noticeable difference...

More from Ogged: God help you if you're ever dependent on W-lfs-n for anything. I took so much abuse yesterday that I think even Ben had a couple brief pangs of conscience.

Update: Shhh! Nobody tell Tim we're here!


 

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A reason to love Tina Fey

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.18.06

From The Superficial, an amusing excerpt from Fey's appearance on Howard Stern:

Howard Stern: What is Paris Hilton like?

Tina Fey: She's a piece of shit. The people at SNL were like maybe she'll be fun, maybe she won't take herself so seriously. She takes herself so seriously! She's unbelievably dumb and so proud of how dumb she is. She looks like a tranny up close.
Howard Stern: Was she bad on SNL, was she hard to deal with?
Tina Fey: She was awful. People never come in and say "I'm not doing that." So, this guy Jim Downey wrote a really really funny sketch, it was supposed to be Lorne Michaels just finding out that she had a sex tape and telling her she couldn't host the show because SNL has standards... So she was like "I'm not doing it!" and refused to come out of her dressing room. Also, you would walk down the hall and find what just looked like nasty wads of Barbie hair on the stairs... Her hair is like a Fraggle.
Howard Stern: Did she give you ideas for sketches?
Tina Fey: Yeah, she wanted to make fun of all the girls she hates. She was like "I want to play Jessica Simpson, I hate her." She would come in the room and say "you should do a show about Jessica Simpson because she's fat."

This is so satisfyingly catty. And after this post, even more people will show up looking for information about Tina Fey's scar. Awesome.


 

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Too Much Time ATM?

Posted by Alameida
on 11.18.06

I had some new neighbors from downstairs over tonight for dinner; we met them last week at a cocktail party. They seem really nice. The husband teaches at the business school here. My younger daughter was walking around in a Korean demon mask (periodically pulling it up to the top of her head and saying "don't worry! It's just only me!"), and I mentioned that I had gotten it at Daiso, the Japanese $2 store. I was talking about how their business model involved offering a mixture of suprisingly cheap things with merely averagely priced ones, counting on the fact that you get swept up in $2 fever. The guy started to say "I think my parents were caught up in $2 fever when they--" He was intending to make some joke but I never got to hear what it was, because I cut him off with a wide-eyed, deadpan: "I didn't realize your mom was so cheap."


 

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Neo-Natal Achievement

Posted by Ogged
on 11.17.06

On the occasion of Milton Friedman's death, Jacob Levy brings out the big guns in the ever-ongoing precocious nerdosity contest.

Free to Choose was the first book I read in the human sciences, the first serious book about politics or economics I ever read, and obviously had a huge, transformative effect on me at an early (11 or 12 or so) age.

I am slain. As a big Doors fan, I wanted to find out about this Nietzsche character who Jimbo loved so much, so I read Thus Spake Zarathustra in 8th grade, during which I was what, 13? I think we should set aside questions of whether we understood what we read, counting books just as long as we believed that we understood something of them. Can anyone beat Levy?

Update: Click that link and read Levy's addendum. Now he's just showing off.


 

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Ziggy: well hung, snow-white tan

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.17.06

The Editors on Ziggy Stardust:

There’s something extra-awesome about having a really bad idea, executing it horribly, and kicking my ass anyways. And “Ziggy Stardust” has to be the worst idea in music history. Firstly, not calling the the album “Stranger In A Strange Band” is completely Bill Buckner. Then, in the time-honored tradition of rock operas, he completely loses the plot about 3 seconds into side A, building towards an operatic conclusion that makes absolutely no sense. Then, “Suffragette City”; then, don’t kill yourself, Rock-n-Roller. Thanks, Dave, I won’t. Also, someone needs to say sonething about about Bowie’s jumble-sale hipster crap lyrics. “Jiving us that we were voodoo”? Whatever, narc. It’s like running a race with one leg tied behind your back; but then having Jesus Christ playing lead guitar, and winning anyways. If your name is “Peter Murphy”, it’s like running a race with five hundred legs tied behind your back, but then having Robo-Jesus’ big brother on guitar and winning again. BASTARDS!!! You won this time, Bauhaus, but you still suck.

Click the link if you want to watch the video for Bauhaus's version of "Ziggy Stardust." If you do not want this, I want nothing to do with you.

Musings:
(a) the Editors are totally right about how that record is awesome despite/because being completely ridiculous. Like tigers on vaseline, eh?
(b) it's troubling that "Ziggy Stardust" and the Indigo Girls' "Closer to Fine" are built around that little D-major/suspended thingy you can do with your pinky.
(c) Damn, David J sounds crappy. Here's a useful tip: if you don't really have much technique, don't play an instrument without frets. It's really Bauhaus's fault that I spent a good part of my teenage years rocking out with a Fender fretless, trying to be goth and Jaco Pastorius at the same time. That did not go well.


 

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Lovely.

Posted by Apostropher
on 11.17.06

George W. Bush continues his long tradition of appointing the absolute worst possible person for a government post.

The Bush administration has appointed a new chief of family-planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services who worked at a Christian pregnancy-counseling organization that regards the distribution of contraceptives as "demeaning to women."

Eric Keroack, medical director for A Woman's Concern, a nonprofit group based in Dorchester, Mass., will become deputy assistant secretary for population affairs in the next two weeks, department spokeswoman Christina Pearson said yesterday.

Keroack, an obstetrician-gynecologist, will advise Secretary Mike Leavitt on matters such as reproductive health and adolescent pregnancy. He will oversee $283 million in annual family-planning grants that, according to HHS, are "designed to provide access to contraceptive supplies and information to all who want and need them with priority given to low-income persons." [...]

The Keroack appointment angered many family-planning advocates, who noted that A Woman's Concern supports sexual abstinence until marriage, opposes contraception and does not distribute information promoting birth control at its six centers in eastern Massachusetts.

"A Woman's Concern is persuaded that the crass commercialization and distribution of birth control is demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality and adverse to human health and happiness," the group's Web site says.

The appointment does not require Senate confirmation, so it's a done deal.

Update: In the comments, Felix points out that Keroack's beliefs on contraception are just the tip of the iceberg of insanity.


 

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Scary

Posted by Alameida
on 11.17.06

I had a funny experience.

One of the guys in our fellowship is kind of a...um. You know how countries have security agencies? And then sometimes the agents go rogue and start to get sticky fingers in the evidence room where they store all the ugs-dray? And maybe they spend a feverish night feeding incriminating documents into the shredder, and then drive to the huge dumpsters behind a hawker centre to pitch the shreds into the slurry of melon rinds and gluey cold noodles, before setting out to off themselves? (This trajectory was interrupted, obviously.) Yeah, so, stuff like that. This guy completed sixty glorious days of being sober the other week, and I was chatting with him afterward. First we had a humorous discussion about how, as I shared in the meeting, if you stare into the barrel of a snub-nosed .38 revolver you can see the bullet glittering down in there like a fascinating copper snake. He himself, in his thoughtful moments, favored unloading the magazine and lining all the bullets up in a perfect row, and then reloading the magazine and the gun, and then unloading it again. Another member allowed as how he had always favored meditatively cleaning a rifle, and we all agreed that what it lacked in being able to see all the way down the barrel it more than made up for in guaranteed results, should anyone decide to pull the trigger which we totally wouldn't, because that would be crazy! Good times! We have laughs about stuff like this all the time; it's one of the things that makes going to meetings so fun. And then my friend said that when he first started coming to meetings he was kind of afraid of me. And I was like, "whaaat?" "No, I just found you intimidating." Other people agreed that I was intimidating. "God, I always thought you were a big sweetie-pie," I said truthfully to my agent-type friend from nation z. (He is a big sweetie, and he didn't mean for that shit to happen in Cambodia at all. It's a dangerous line of work, accidents happen.) It kind of freaked me out, though, because I don't see myself as an intimidating person at all. I'm really friendly and smile at people all the time! I don't know, I just feel strange about it. Am I the anorexic person of scary, with my self-perception a distorted mirror of smiling, somewhat antic good cheer? If it were just anyone who said that I wouldn't think to much about it, but this guy is pretty much a professional looker at scary people. He did say also that he felt that of the people in our group he was always certain that I used to get just as wasted as him, which inspired a feeling of perverse pride. It's strange to have had a part of my personality invested for so long in being that crazy woman who can drink everybody under the table. I've always prided myself on a kind of macho competence in debauchery, as another masculine sphere of activity in which to prove myself. I realize that I'm worried that everyone will think I'm really boring now. Oh well, let them be bored...so long as they fear! No, wait. Part of me recognizes that although I may have various other problems, people thinking I'm boring is not actually one of them.


 

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Third, In What We Hope Will Be A Very Extended Series, But The Monosyllabic First Name Thing Is A Problem: Chris! Chris!

Posted by LizardBreath
on 11.16.06

From this DKos diary, (and if you're registered there, vote to promote it or however that works, if you would), Senator Chris Dodd introduced legislation today to roll back the Military Commissions act. Here's some of his press release:

The Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act:
Restores Habeas Corpus protections to detainees
Narrows the definition of unlawful enemy combatant to individuals who directly participate in hostilities against the United States who are not lawful combatants
Bars information gained through coercion from being introduced as evidence in trials
Empowers military judges to exclude hearsay evidence they deem to be unreliable
Authorizes the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to review decisions by the Military commissions
Limits the authority of the President to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions and makes that authority subject to congressional and judicial oversight
Provides for expedited judicial review of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to determine the constitutionally of its provisions.

No one's perfect, but our guys have their points.


 

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Is Economics Science, Or Are Economists More Like 19th Century Natural Philosophers?

Posted by LizardBreath
on 11.16.06

Crooked Timber links to a fascinating article by Chris Hayes, on Econ 101 as a form of ideological indoctrination. You should read the Hayes article -- it's a compelling expansion of Megan's simpler, but still somehow perfect "Pareto Kaldor-Hicks can suck me". But in the comments of the CT post, John Emerson is making his usual (informative, skillful) trouble about whether claims that economics is really a science are valid, or whether a large proportion of the math is in fact bullshit. I have some thoughts on this, which this is as good a time as any to share with you.

To start, let's think about the relationship between chemistry and physics. (Note: all scientific information in the following is pulled out of my highly educated hat. I welcome correction.) While they're historically separate disciplines, there's a sense in which chemistry can be thought of as a subset of physics -- we understand chemical reactions on a deep level because we understand the physics of how subatomic particles interact. There is knowledge that's a part of chemistry that wouldn't conventionally be thought of as part of physics, but it can be thought of as studying aggregated interactions that are themselves part of physics. To the extent that chemistry is supported by valid theory, the theory rests on our understanding of physics.

This wasn't always the case. Before the relevant subatomic theory, the two disciplines were much more separate, but chemistry didn't have a strong theoretical foundation. It was a systematic body of knowledge, that made use of mathematical tools, but the mathematical tools were a way to summarize and extend knowledge gathered through experiment, rather than a new source of knowledge. A nineteenth century chemist would not expect to arrive at interesting new knowledge about chemistry by playing with mathematical models, unless it was something that could be immediately confirmed or disconfirmed by experiment.

To get back around to economics, it appears obvious to me that a solid theoretical underpinning for economics would have to come from psychology; the relationship between economics and psychology is precisely analogous to the relationship between chemistry and physics, in that the first is the study of aggregated behavior (in a particular context) of elements whose behavior is described by the second. And this is a problem for those claiming that important new knowlege is likely to come out of manipulation of mathematical models in economics, because psychology isn't currently in a state where it can provide the sort of solid predictions about human behavior that would be necessary to support those models. In factual situation X, if you ask an academic psychologist "What will person Y do?" the honest answer will be "Beats me, could do Z, could do something else, depends." But economic theory depends on claims that "In situation X (prices go down) people generally will do Z (buy more)," even though those claims aren't dependent on any solid theory of human behavior.

I don't mean by this to denigrate economics more than it deserves. Price falls, demand rises is a pretty good rule of thumb. But it's only a rule of thumb, because its theoretical support is only as good as our understanding of human psychology, which is itself not in a state that's capable of making reliable predictions about behavior. And so predictions based on 'economic theory' are only useful where they're strongly supported by actual, real world data. Arguments such as the the claim that raising the minimum wage must increase unemployment make no sense: where economic theory comes in conflict with the data, you have to remember that economic theory is only as robust as the understanding of human psychology that underlies it, and that understanding is, itself, not robust at all.

Update: This is being perceived as more hostile to economics as a field of study, and academic economists, than I meant to be. I am certain that there is good, honest, useful work being done in economics. Instead, I'm trying to undercut a political argument that I hear all too often, that what you learn in Econ 101 is irrefutably true -- it all follows from first principles. And this is nonsense, because the 'first principles' are often, themselves, not well supported.


 

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Library Thing

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.16.06

The good people of Unfogged have been endorsed! For more book-based fun, register.

UPDATE: second link fixed.


 

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More Cohen

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.16.06

Here's an interesting interview with Sacha Baron Cohen as himself:

There is a certain sadism to Baron Cohen, who seems most comfortable when making others uncomfortable. To some degree, Borat and Ali G are safe refuges for him, masks he can hide behind. If everything that comes out of your mouth is parody, then you never have to be accountable for what you say -- because you didn't really mean it anyway. You only said it to lead your interview subjects to the thin line between patience and intolerance in order for their true personality to reveal itself.

Cohen sees Borat as a way to expose indifference to anti-Semitism, though I suspect that Borat will also allow members of his target audience to play at various anti-Semitic stereotypes in a way that heads off an easy line of objection ("the funny accent means I'm just kidding!") while still making actual Jewish people a bit nervous.

Via Althouse, whose post has an interesting bit about James Lipton's encounter with Ali G.

I suspect that what makes Borat funny makes this funnier.


 

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On being part of the problem

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.16.06

As B points out, I am indeed part of the problem. I am a small part of the vast apparatus serving the children of the professional class. The better we are at our jobs, the more advantages accrue to our mostly well-off, mostly white charges, and the more likely it is that they'll enjoy their parents' prerogatives.

This is bothersome. Many of our students are as decent as one can expect such 18-22 year olds to be, but regardless there's something chilling about a career dedicated to helping well-off white people achieve their dreams. I taught you language, and your profit on't is: you went to law school.

On the other hand, well, health insurance.


 

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A Jumpstart On Tomorrow's Quote of the Day

Posted by Becks
on 11.15.06

NYT Thursday Styles:

“Five years ago, only 60 percent of men purchased or influenced the purchase of their underwear,” Mr. Phelan said. “Now it’s 80 percent, and about 17 percent are what we call ‘highly involved.’ ” In the old days, a man got up in the morning, put on underwear — boxers or briefs — and never gave it a second thought. But now, men see their underwear as a “situational thing,” Mr. Phelan said.


 

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Okay, This Remains Embarrassing, But Here's Another Call To Action

Posted by LizardBreath
on 11.15.06

From Daily Kos:

Down in Florida, an epic battle is brewing over the electronic Diebold voting machines that ate 18,000 votes for Democrat Christine Jennings in FL-13 and cost her the election.
Not only is an expensive recount in the cards, but campaign and DCCC lawyers are flocking down, demanding the state freeze the machines for inspection.
These are the opening salvos in what will be the battle to end Diebold.
But only 36 people have given via our Blue Majority Act Blue page for the legal battles ahead.
To put it bluntly, to anyone who has ever complained about Diebold, this is your chance to put your money where your mouth is. No more talk needed. No more advocacy needed. This is a real-world, legal frontal assault on those electronic voting machines.
If we win this battle, you'll be able to kiss Diebold goodbye.
Update: No one will confirm, but word is that the DCCC and the Jennings campaign are considering suing for a brand new election.
Update II: Machines in FL-13 were made by ES&S. Same difference.

While, you know, Kos is hyperbolic, and the Diebold ES&S mixup is funny, he's right. This is a beautiful test case. There are a ridiculous number of missing votes (that is, undervotes on a high-profile race), and it doesn't matter whether someone did it on purpose or it was an accident, the point is that it is completely unacceptable for this to happen, and it happened because of voting machines with no paper trail and no protection against undervotes. And it's one House seat, so if it drags on forever, it's no huge deal. So anyone with a spare couple of bucks should give to Christine Jennings' recount fund -- they really need enough money to kick up a huge fuss about this.


 

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"If I did it, here's how it happened"

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.15.06

Wow:

NEW YORK (AP) - In an account his publisher considers a confession and some media executives call revolting, O.J. Simpson plans a book and TV interview to discuss how, hypothetically, he could have killed his ex-wife and her friend.

On Fox, of course. What I love about this is the trashy cocktail of incoherence, coyness, and evil. (It's not like an innocent OJ would have any special insight into the crimes, as if the most likely OJ-is-innocent scenario involved him standing there helplessly watching as the real killers did their thing.)

Ice Cube, take us home:

Fuck one love it's the bloody glove
killin' honkey hoes
Leaving blood stains on Broncos
In a Hertz rental I drive on the 405
Is he dead or alive
Motherfuckin court took another snort
Jumpin' over chairs as I run through the airport
So I can catch a flight away from the drama
Number 32 chillin' in the Bahamas

Via Jim Rome.


 

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WASPs Who Don't Think

Posted by Becks
on 11.15.06

How much do I love the Last Week's Shots feature on Wonkette? Sooooo much.


 

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Ethics

Posted by Ogged
on 11.15.06

Why Nancy Pelosi would back John Murtha for House Majority Leader, when there are stories like this to be told about him, I have no idea. Pretty interesting just as an account of backroom dealing, too.

More: This one should also be fun.

A source close to the investigation says Abramoff told prosecutors that more than $30,000 in campaign contributions to [Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid from Abramoff's clients "were no accident and were in fact requested by Reid."


 

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Tomorrow, Your Colon

Posted by Ogged
on 11.15.06

Labs oughta get royalties on this.

Update: The apostropher always comes first.


 

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In my beginning is my end.

Posted by Apostropher
on 11.15.06

Just thought I'd pass along the news that The Poor Man has a new Keyboard Kommando Komics dedicated to Gayatollah Abu Labs. Woo hook 'em!


 

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What Salon Should Do

Posted by Ogged
on 11.14.06

Re-launch as a blog. Salon used to be (way back in the mid-90s)(!!) a very good online magazine, with solid original reporting, smart regular columnists, and excellent contributors. Now, they have a few people worth reading, almost no original reporting, and a bunch of filler.

Gary Kamiya is a very good writer--a more eloquent and less angry Billmon (and I like Billmon), Debra Dickerson is punchy and has a great sense for controversy, and King Kaufman is perfect for blogging: informal, smart and knowledgeable, but not so smart and knowledgeable that his readers don't think they have something to teach him. They also have a very active "letters" board, which is basically just a comments section. So build a blog around those three (with the occasional feature story), and become part of the liberal blog conversation again. I'll bet their readership would go up, and so would their ad revenue if they sprinkled ads among the posts, rather than using the stupid "day pass" thing they have now.


 

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I have no idea

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.14.06

Drum says some interesting things about Iraq:

On the Iraq front, everyone is playing a kabuki dance waiting for the Baker Commission report. What will they recommend? The betting favorite is talks with Syria and Iran, which is a fine idea with one wee drawback: talks would likely have almost no effect on the violence in Iraq even if they were successful. Iran may be causing trouble in Iraq, but at this point the vast bulk of Iraq's trouble is homegrown. Iran could help in only a limited way even if it wanted to.
The other crowd-pleaser getting airtime these days is "One Last Push," the idea that we can surge in another 20,000 troops or so and end the Iraqi violence once and for all. John McCain is one of many running this idea up the flagpole, but it's a suggestion so puerile and reckless it boggles the mind. It's unlikely that 20,000 troops would have made a difference three years ago, let alone now, and he knows it.
But still we wait, even though everyone knows perfectly well that Baker's team won't come up with any magic solution. Unfortunately, even some liberals play along with this game because they have their own bit of truth they'd just as soon avoid: namely that conservatives are correct when they say that a U.S. pullout would be a disaster for Iraq. War supporters may have only themselves to blame for this state of affairs, but that doesn't make them any less right: A pullout now would almost certainly touch off a full-scale civil war, the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and the eventual establishment of a Shiite theocracy. It's hardly surprising that no one wants to face up to this, but the fact remains that our continued denial only makes the situation worse with every passing day, virtually guaranteeing a higher body count and an even more brutal end game.

My uninformed sense is that he's right: there's no viable course of action with a realistic shot at producting a good outcome, but US withdrawal would be the proximate cause of some very bad outcomes. (Is this a case of the sunk cost fallacy?)

Discuss:
(a) Would 20,000 troops have a serious positive effect on the situation? More generally, is there some n such that it is possible for the US to deploy n additional troops in Iraq and this deployment significantly increases chances of US success?
(b) if there is no such n, does it follow that there is no realistic chance of success?
(c) does "cut and run" make strategic sense just in case there is no realistic chance of success?

It seems to me that the "we want to win, they want to retreat" line of argument is possible because very few people are saying publically what they must be thinking, namely, that there really is no serious chance of making Iraq work. If this is so, isn't it time for this case to be made publically?


 

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In case you were wondering

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.14.06

A picture from my colonoscopy.

michaels_phallus_cam.jpg


 

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A Social History In Monsters

Posted by LizardBreath
on 11.14.06

I was talking to a friend over the weekend, who has just had this book, an oral history of the coming Zombie Wars, recommended to him. And we noticed that really, all the cool people these days are talking about zombies, whereas from the late 80s through the late 90's, the hip monster was vampires, from Anne Rice through Buffy.

And you could make up a story about why that should be so -- in the 80's and 90's, there was more of a sense of scary power in the hands of people who were richer and stronger and smarter than you, starting with Wall Street takeover artists like Gordon Gekko, and moving through dot-com billionaires. And vampires make a wonderful stand-in for them; glamorous, and powerful, and clever. And in this decade, there's more of a sense that shambling idiots control our lives: from Office Space, and The Office, all the way through the Bush Administration. We're smarter and better than they are, but they're going to eat our brains anyway. (But they'll be reasonable about it, no one's going to eat our eyes.)

So what's the next monster? I can't think of anything but werewolves, which I find encouraging, because the werewolf is the monster that represents the reader/viewer. While vampires and zombies are scary power attacking us, werewolves are about the fear of our own unleashed power and aggression, which I could use some more of these days. So who's out there writing the screenplay that's going to start the werewolf trend?


 

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Unsettling Insight Into The Motivations That Drive The Medical Profession

Posted by LizardBreath
on 11.14.06

So I was reading the Science section of the Times on the way into work this morning, and came across an article on how the colonoscopy is likely to become obsolete as a screening test, as other less intrusive methods of screening for colon cancer (CT scans, swallowing a camera in a pill) become more standard. This comment gave me pause:

Gastroenterologists enjoy doing colonoscopies and believe they are important, because colon cancer is the most preventable cancer, Dr. Rex said. And, he added, there is a financial disincentive for treating patients with diseases like hepatitis or conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, which often require extensive, and poorly compensated, discussions with patients to help them cope.

And all I could think was: "Really?"


 

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Your Comment Pages

Posted by Ogged
on 11.13.06

People of Blog, would you prefer to keep the comment pages as they are, or would you like to have the text of the post also show up on the page with the comments? Vote away, please.


Comment Layout
Keep As Is
Include Post Text
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com


 

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Radio!

Posted by Ben
on 11.13.06

Hello, children. You who've been sent a CD should be receiving it today or tomorrow (unless, like Nakku, you live overseas); if that doesn't happen, you should … be patient! But if it continues not to happen, let me know. Those who haven't been sent a CD can entertain themselves with this not at all dated novelty song about teleology, or can listen to me doing a radio show from 6 to 9 pm PST on Wednesday. Will substantial portions of it be cannibalized from the mix CDs? Probably! It's too soon to say, but it might also include some emo-tastic Schubert and Sinatra, and something by a band in which plays a commenter. It will be called "Jena and Gomorrah", unless I think of a better title.


 

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The Times Gets Something Right

Posted by LizardBreath
on 11.13.06

This bread recipe is bizarre, and bizarrely good. You don't knead it -- you stir up a dough that's almost wet enough to be a batter, with only a quarter teaspoon of yeast, and let it rise for eighteen hours. Then you try, vainly, to form it into a ball (puddle, more like) and let it rise for another two hours. You have preheated a heavy lidded pot to 450°, and you toss the puddle in and bake for half an hour in the covered pot, and another 15 minutes to half an hour uncovered. And you come out of it with a round, not too high, peasant loaf with a crust that I wouldn't have thought could have come out of anything but a professional bakery, and an elastic crumb with big stretchy holes in it. Absolutely incredible.


 

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Unsuggester

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 11.13.06

Via Ben A, the Unsuggester, which provides a list of books unlikely to share the shelves with the volume of your choice. A moderately amusing diversion.


 

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Where Are All The Female Pundits, Redux

Posted by LizardBreath
on 11.13.06

A few weeks ago, I linked to an article in The American Prospect, and some commentary on it, noting the lack of female pundits -- Op-Ed columnists and the like -- and attributing it variously to a dearth of female elected officials, which makes punditry less attractive to women, and to women's being socialized to be less argumentatively aggressive. Katha Pollitt had a response to the article, which I've been thinking about for the last couple of weeks, pointing out that sexism is still a perfectly reasonable explanation. She notes (among all sorts of other interesting stuff: read it) that:

Last point -- it's irrelevant which gender sends in more unsolicited pieces. Most of it goes straight into the wastebasket. In opinion journalism, the phone works mostly the other way: they call you.

Reading that reminded me that a friend published an Op-Ed in the Daily News on September 11; a pro/con piece on whether it should be a national holiday, with Christopher Hitchens arguing the other side (Note: Google if you want, but don't link. Thanks.). And yes, he's never written an Op-Ed before. The News called a co-worker of his, who didn't want to do it and passed the opportunity on to him.

I read things like the Pollitt article and get so incredibly sad. If the problem is that access to the very top tiers of many professions is controlled, essentially, by invitation from those who are already inside, and that those people just tend not to think of women as acceptable candidates, what do you do? And how do you know if it is the problem? And how do you avoid the incredible self-loathing (oh, and loathing from other people, who are always very ready to address this possibility) that comes when you think of the possibility that sexism isn't the problem, and it's just that you're making excuses for your own inadequacies? I'll be brooding in my office now.


 

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Role Models

Posted by Ogged
on 11.13.06

We are so First World. Iran now has its own celebrity sex tape scandal.

I'm no expert, having seen only a few pictures of the actress before I saw the video, but I don't think it's her. That's almost too bad, because I'd like someone to brazenly violate this taboo and be famous or well-liked enough to survive the firestorm, so the taboo would lose some of its force. Not so that we can have more celebrity sex tapes, but so as to chip away a little more of the "religious society" facade in Iran.


 

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Outsmarting myself.

Posted by Apostropher
on 11.13.06

I logged onto my bank accounts to move money around last night, and suddenly there was security question I had to answer: "What is your favorite pet?" I couldn't for the life of me remember setting this up, but obviously I had. After three pet names failed, the system locked me out and told me to call during business hours to have it reopened.

Sigh.

So first thing this morning, I call and the fellow unlocks it for me. But when I log in, I get the same question. Entering the names of three other pets locks me out again. Clearly, I'm going to require a better hint. I call back and get a pleasant-voiced woman who, after going through my address, date of birth, social security number, blah blah blah, gets to the secret question part and begins laughing.

"What do you think it is?"
"I don't have any idea. I'm down to names of pets that I didn't even like."
(still laughing) "It isn't the name of a pet, it's a kind of pet... sort of."
(lightbulb flickers on) "Oh Jesus Christ, did I put 'monkey'?"
(laughing harder) "Yes, that's it. Do you own a monkey?"
"Well, no. I don't own a monkey."
"Do you want a monkey?"
"Why? Have you got one you're looking to get rid of?"
(more laughter) "No, I don't. Sorry. But best of luck with that. You should be good to go on your account access now. Thanks for calling. Really, I mean it. This made my morning."


 

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Fun

Posted by Ogged
on 11.12.06

GIs in Iraq bind one of the women in their unit.

On the bright side, they're really bad at it.

Worth a look just because it's such a good example of why "'No' means 'no'" is a good rule to inculcate. She doesn't want to be bound, but her "no" is pretty clearly of the "but I'll play along" variety. Rules take some of the fun and nuance out of human interaction, but because we recognize that lots of women still don't feel comfortable with an angry "no," we use a rule to make up the difference. Slightly sexist, but there's no reason we can't get women to be more comfortable with sticking up for themselves while also telling guys to follow the rule.


 

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Ride 'em cowgirl

Posted by Ben
on 11.12.06

The iGallop. Be sure to check out the interactive media. As Ray observes, it was always possible to build one's own Sybian, but now it seems that the cost of entry (so to speak) has been substantially reduced, since one of these iGallup things is about 37% the cost of a Sybian, and they've done the difficult work for you.


 

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Second In What I Dearly Hope Will Be A Long-Running Series: Pat-RICK! Pat-RICK!

Posted by LizardBreath
on 11.12.06

Senator Leahy is drafting a bill to restore habeas rights for everyone:

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who is expected to become chairman [of the Senate judiciary Committee], confirmed Thursday that he is drafting a bill to undo portions of a recently passed law that prevent terrorism detainees from going to federal court to challenge the government's right to hold them indefinitely....
Many Democrats opposed the Military Commissions Act largely because of the language that prevents detainees from challenging their confinement. Some also had concerns about the definition of torture in the law, with critics complaining that certain procedures that could be described as torture were not categorically outlawed....
Leahy, who was among the 32 Democrats who voted against the bill, has been the most outspoken critic of the restrictions on habeas corpus.
"It was crazy," he said during an interview broadcast Wednesday on National Public Radio. "After 200 years of habeas corpus, we threw it out after just a few hours of debate."
He has also voiced concern that the bill allows the White House to determine what kinds of coercive interrogation procedures are off-limits.

(via Hilzoy)


 

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